The philosopher and theologian, Zionist thinker and leader, had a profound impact on Christian as well as Jewish thinkers.
The grandson of the noted Talmud and Midrash scholar, Solomon Buber, Martin Buber was deeply stirred by the religious message of Hasidism and considered it his duty to convey that message to the world. He wrote several books on Hasidism including collections of Hasidic tales. He was very concerned about Jewish education in Germany and, together with Franz Rosenzweig he translated the Bible into German. During the early Nazi period (1933--38) Buber traveled throughout Germany lecturing, teaching and encouraging his fellow Jews, and thus organized something of a spiritual resistance to the oppressions which were beginning. In 1938 he settled in Palestine and was appointed professor of social philosophy at the Hebrew University, where he taught until his retirement in 1951.
In his later years Buber remained very active in public affairs and in Jewish cultural endeavors. He was one of the founders of the College for Adult Education Teachers, established to train teachers from among the new immigrants who came to Israel. He was the first president of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities. After World War II Buber lectured extensively outside Israel and became known throughout the world as one of the spiritual leaders of his generation.
The starting point of Buber's philosophy is the relation between man and the world. He identified two basic forms of relation, the I-Thou and I-It, into which all man's relations, both with other men and things in the world, can be divided. The I-Thou relation is characterized by openness and directness among other qualities; the I-It by the absence of these qualities. The I-Thou relation is one in which the parties speak to one another as equals; the I-It relation is characterized by the fact that one partner uses the other to achieve some end. I-Thou relations among men leads to the notion of God as the Eternal Thou and to the description of the relation between man and God as I-Thou. For Buber the essence of the religious life is not the holding of religious beliefs, but the way in which one meets the challenge of everyday life.
In the years before the establishment of the State of Israel, Buber proposed a joint Arab-Israel state, believing that "the Jewish people proclaims its desire to live in peace and brotherhood with the Arab people and to develop the common homeland into a republic in which both peoples will have the possibility of free development." Even after the proclamation of the State and the attack on it by the Arab countries, he still hoped and believed that Jews and Arabs would come to live in peace.
Entry taken from "Junior Judaica, Encyclopedia Judaica for Youth" CD-ROM
by C.D.I. Systems 1992 (LTD) and Keter.